Episode Topic: In this episode of TravelPreneur, we take a deep dive into the world of travel tech and its transformative impact on the hospitality industry. Our guest, Murray Decker, the Chief Executive Officer of Tour Amigo, joins us to explore the evolution of travel technology and how his company is reshaping the landscape of travel booking and reservation software for multi-day tour agents and operators.
Lessons You’ll Learn: Here we will unravel the insights shared by Murray Decker, a seasoned expert with over a decade of experience in the travel industry. Discover the importance of adopting technology to enhance operational efficiency, saving invaluable time for businesses. Explore how Tour Amigo’s platform is streamlining travel booking processes, revolutionizing backend operations, and bridging the gap between operators and distribution agents. Gain insights into the development of a tiered pricing structure that’s both adaptable and beneficial for various business sizes.
About Our Guest: Our guest, Murray Decker, the CEO of Tour Amigo, comes with a rich background as a former tour guide for industry giants like G Adventures. With hands-on experience in the operational challenges faced by the industry, Murray ventured into the domain of travel technology to address these inefficiencies. His journey exemplifies the fusion of travel expertise and innovative thinking.
Topics Covered: Step into the world of Tour Amigo with Murray Decker, as we discuss the journey that led to the creation of a robust travel booking and reservation software designed to cater specifically to the multi-day tour segment. Explore the challenges Murray encountered during his years as a tour guide and operator, and how these experiences became the driving force behind the birth of Tour Amigo. Delve into the significance of technological adoption for the travel industry’s growth and resilience, while understanding the intricate interplay between functionality and efficiency in a business.
Our Guest: Tech-Driven Travel Maestro: Murray Decker, Founder of Tour Amigo
Murray Decker is a seasoned entrepreneur with a rich background in the travel industry. With over a decade of experience, he began his journey as a tour leader and operations manager for prominent tour operators across Europe, Asia, and Australia. His diverse career path has led him through corporate travel, wholesale contracting, product management, retail, and travel booking solutions for some of Australia’s largest travel agencies.
Murray’s academic foundation in banking laid the groundwork for his innovative approach to the travel industry. His studies in Marketing and Strategic Management with Honours coupled with this foundation further enhanced his perspective.
An avid traveler himself, Murray’s passion for exploring new horizons led him to create Tour Amigo, a Business-to-Business (B2B) travel technology company. As the Founder of TourAmigo, Murray self-funded the platform’s development and leveraged his extensive network to secure access to data from 20 leading tour operators, offering over 5,500 multi-day tours worldwide.
Murray Decker: You need to evaluate not just on what the technology can do on a distribution side of things, but how much time is it going to save your people. And I think that’s something that we don’t measure too much in the travel space, like how much time it takes to process a booking or set up the costings for something. So if that can save a particular person or three people 50% of their time, imagine what else they could be concentrating on to grow your business.
Megha McSwain: Welcome to TravelPreneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston-based travel journalist Megha McSwain. Each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry-focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel business, if it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on TravelPreneur.
Megha McSwain: Welcome to TravelPreneur. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we’re speaking with Murray Decker, chief executive officer of Tour Amigo, a true industry expert with ten-plus years of experience in the biz. Tour Amigo is a booking and reservation software designed specifically for multi-day tour agents and operators. Hello, Murray. Thanks for joining us today.
Murray Decker: Thank you very much for having me.
Megha McSwain: You’re coming to us from Australia. From Australia.
Murray Decker: From Australia, yes. Brisbane. Queensland.
Megha McSwain: Well, welcome. So let’s talk about Tour Amigo and your journey. What inspired you to venture into the world of travel technology?
Murray Decker: Yeah, I was actually working overseas, so I worked as a tour guide for some of the biggest names in the industry. So that’s your Busabout, your travel corporations. I worked for G Adventures and I started off as a tour guide because I was living and working in London. Quickly went into operations and started being exposed to the systems or the lack thereof that they had in the back end. So we were operating off Excel spreadsheets in those days. We were faxing things. I think we still are sometimes nowadays. And yeah, so that was sort of my first exposure. But the original idea was to just have a friendly spot that people could find information on all these companies. But as we progressed, we realized that the reason why a lot of this information wasn’t online is that these operators didn’t have any sort of proper back-end booking and reservation operational sort of enterprise resource planning systems.
Megha McSwain: So you were sort of seeing those struggles from tour providers back then?
Murray Decker: Absolutely. Yeah. I experienced it myself and even started up my own sort of tour operator business as well and experienced all the spreadsheets and everything that you were doing offline and the static information. So you have experienced it first hand.
Megha McSwain: So this platform Tour Amigo, how does it digitize and distribute these tours and how does it benefit both operators and distribution agents?
Murray Decker: Yeah. So the only sort of B-to-B and end-to-end solution out there so we can provide tour operators, DMCs destination management companies, or even ocean and river cruising companies, a full back-end system that powers their entire business. So we solve all the efficiencies operationally, booking and reservation, passenger management, finance, accounting, accounts payable receivable, all in the back end. Once they’re in our system and building those itineraries, we also provide them with a two-way or bookable or live connection into whoever they want. So this is where we go into the distribution side of things where we have 100 plus different travel agencies around the world and online travel agencies. Pretty much anyone who wants to sell these tour products, we can provide them with one link, and that gives them access to over half a million different tours.
Megha McSwain: Wow. So Tour Amigo has an interesting three-tiered pricing structure. And first, can you tell us how you developed that structure and why it works?
Murray Decker: Yeah, it’s been an evolving process because particularly coming out of Covid, no one wanted to pay any sort of upfront monthly fees, so it had to be a transactional percentage fee. But now we’ve moved very much into more of the software sort of space. So we’ve now got monthly fees based on the number of users. So subscription licenses that they would be using the system and then a flat fee of a transaction fee to scale with them, just mainly for if they’re going from 1000 bookings to 100,000 bookings, then we can scale with them in terms of servers and functionalities and support. So yeah, we’ve simplified that model along the way. In answer to that question, it’s been an evolving process because when you’re in sort of a very innovative space, there’s no sort of benchmarks and compare it to other industries. But we’ve really hit a nice, sweet spot now, and it’s really good for both us and also our tour operators and clients.
Megha McSwain: And so just because I know that all business owners have anxiety about if their services or experiences are appropriately priced, how do you develop your prices? If you can share that in terms of did you do competitive research, did you get client feedback or how did you do it?
Murray Decker: All of the above and we started off with market research and what other industries have been doing and what functionalities and features they offer. And then we have done about a year to year and a half of beta testing and mixing up of different models. We’re actually quite flexible. So like sometimes some operators and clients much prefer set fees and will pay a higher set fee. So they know that this is the fixed fee that’s coming in and others prefer a more variable combination of a fixed fee and or a lower fixed fee and a variable booking fee. That’s the model that they choose because they can potentially pass on that sort of expense within their packages to the retail or to the customer. So yeah, so that’s where we’ve actually logically done. It’s been through beta testing and through our customers to make sure that it fits with their businesses. Right! And because we cover both small to medium and large enterprise customers, it’s a model that we found now works very, very well across the board because it’s the same and very similar technology being provided. Maybe it needs a little bit more support in different areas, but it’s the technology that we are charging for.
Megha McSwain: You mentioned Covid earlier. When did you launch Tour Amigo? How long has it been around?
Murray Decker: Yeah, during Covid. So well look, it actually was a catalyst for our industry to realize that they can’t be reliant on one source of selling partners and revenue streams. And so they were looking to diversify where their products could be featured, where they probably could be sold. So it was actually a catalyst and a bit of a turning point where industry is starting to look more at technology. But at the same time, when we launched, it was officially basically November last year would be the official live launch. But we had we were operating for six months before that with customers that were going through. They were helping us improve the system, looking at different ways that we can add features and functionalities in etcetera.
Megha McSwain: Well, aside from sort of coming off this weird time from 2020, and the last few years, what other challenges have you faced with kind of building this brand?
Murray Decker: I suppose one of the biggest challenges has been like, we’ve done this pretty much on our own with it. Like we haven’t sourced outside sort of funding. It’s been just locally based where we are from Brisbane, funding has been very difficult. It’s been a bit of a challenge when you’re in a space that doesn’t have the data because it’s so fragmented, so how can you show? That’s where some of the investors do struggle through all of that information. That’s been interesting, but it’s been a bit of a turning point now because of the traction and the revenue growth that we’ve had just over the last sort of 6 to 7 months. That’s changed a lot of those conversations because it’s sort of like we can prove the data ourselves, but that’s sort of been the main like in terms of growth hurdle. Our clients have been amazing, team’s been incredible.
Megha McSwain: Is there any feedback or testimonials that you’ve received from tour operators that can highlight the positive impact of Tour Amigo? Is there a testimonial you can share with us?
Murray Decker: Yeah, so we’ve actually got a few. I think we’ve just put them up on the website as well. But I think the one thing that all of our customers are coming back with and what another one of the challenges in the industry is that technology companies are renowned for probably underestimating the cost and overestimating the delivery. So it’s a battle when we come in and say, look, we’re going to deliver on time, we’re going to deliver within budget, which we’ve done on a consistent basis. And that’s what our customers come back and say is that what we say we’re going to do, We do! Which is very different to some of the experiences that have been had in technology across the board, not even just in the travel sort of space. So sometimes we miss opportunities because we’re very realistic with it, but they come back to us because six months down the path, they find out that what was actually realistic and what not. So that’s where we really pride ourselves and what our customers have come back, that we are quite transparent with the timeframes, the pricing, and what they will be receiving. It’s never sort of an over-promise.
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Megha McSwain: I feel like that’s sort of good advice that you would give to anybody starting a business. So I was going to ask you what advice you would give to a travel entrepreneur who someone who wants to get into this industry and feel like that’s great advice right there. Be realistic about it, about the expectations.
Murray Decker: It is. But it’s frustrating because we’ve missed out on tenders with some really large companies because it’s on a points-based system. So if you say yes to every question you get through, but if you’re realistic in there, you don’t score as highly, so you don’t get the seat at the table like eventually you do. But like that’s sort of the sacrifices we’ve had to make. And we know eventually it might be years that they will come back because we’re at the forefront of this technology and functionality and features and we’re releasing functionalities on a weekly basis. So we’re leaps and bounds ahead of what’s in the market at the moment in terms of a SaaS system. That’s where we pride ourselves on that. But it’s been incredibly frustrating. Be ready to take some hits for being transparent and realistic.
Megha McSwain: Right. So in your opinion, how important is the adoption of technology in the travel industry and what insights can you share with TravelPreneurs about leveraging technology to gain a competitive edge?
Murray Decker: Yeah, well, I mean, look at any industry. The ones that don’t adopt technology generally have been left behind. I would say not to forget your roots. Like I know there’s channels that have worked in the past and still keep powering on those sorts of different selling channels and methods. But when there’s tools and processes out there, it would be silly not to utilize them, whether it’s us or anyone else. I’m not doing a plug just for us. It’s just like you just got to follow your clients. Where are they actually going? Where are they viewing, where are they doing their research and how do you get in front of them? I think the biggest challenge for some of the clients that we work with or not our clients, but some when we’re prospecting and doing sales is that you need to evaluate not just on what the technology can do on a distribution side of things, but how much time is it going to save your people. And I think that’s something that we don’t measure too much in the travel space, like how much time it takes to process a booking or set up the costings for something. So if that can save a particular person or three people 50% of their time, imagine what else they could be concentrating on to grow your business. And that’s where the ROI is and the cost where they can balance out the costs with it because it is an additional expense on the books. But the cost and the benefits in the long term is far greater for them.
Megha McSwain: Is there a specific software or program or provider that you use in the business that you would recommend to other travel businesses or business owners?
Murray Decker: Oh yeah, we use EAPs, like in terms of development. We use a system called Shortcut, which is sort of our project development that everything’s there, but it’s very clear and understand for both developers and sales and implementation. We use Pipedrive as our CRM keeps it clean and simple. It’s more of a sales CRM sort of service, CRM, or account management, CRM. And yeah, we use PandaDoc for all our documentation that saves a heap of time. So that’s like your online e-signing sort of documents as well. We use multiple what we’re not just preaching and using Excel spreadsheets ourselves. If someone brings in an Excel spreadsheet, we’re like, Hang on a second, We’re being contradictory here. So we engage. We have all our accounting software in zero, which is quite popular in Australia. Here we use a multitude of different technologies to help our business. And yeah.
Megha McSwain: You’re in the game, you’re totally in 2023, as I say. So what are the opportunities that you see on the horizon for Tour Amigo? What kind of what does the future hold?
Murray Decker: We’ve just launched a cruise, so river and ocean cruising and we’ve already got a couple of customers start using our SaaS. We have many destination management companies, DMCs, or DMO. Sometimes you might call them that. We’re signing up at the moment as well. So they’ve been terrific because we can introduce them to some of our tour operators. We also have our travel agents, so we’re sort of creating that network between them, which is been really successful. We’re finding that we’re dealing with quite a few online travel agencies that we’re about to announce partnerships with who have a multitude of DMCs and tour operators seeking technology. But going into the future, we’re coming out with sort of some global payment solutions for both receiving money for these operators, but also paying all their suppliers. This is where they don’t really have too many options for paying their suppliers that are in market at the moment. Everyone focuses on receiving the money, which is obviously the important part, but you’ve also got to pay your suppliers and they could be across multiple currencies, multiple countries, etcetera. And we’ve got a huge amount of features being released as well. So B2B agent portals, B2C or customer portals logins, and even complete sort of functionality for them to review their businesses and reviews for customers. So there’s some very exciting things on the horizon that just come out as part of our offering with it. But yeah, where we see we really want to. Help the overall industry and these types of clients that I’ve just mentioned to collaborate together, to interact together as well.
Megha McSwain: So is that like your hope for Tour Amigo, in the long run? Like what you see kind of big picture, just how the platform contribute to the overall advancement of the travel industry?
Murray Decker: That’s correct. So and we’re already starting to see it. We get a big reward out of that. And just it’s really quite rewarding when you’re talking to customers that when we say anything you’re doing in an Excel spreadsheet can now go into our system. And that sometimes almost brings tears to some of these eyes. Like particularly if they’re in operations, they’re like, You mean I don’t have to work in Excel spreadsheet anymore? And it’s like, that’s where we get a lot of reward out of really helping out sort of from your small to medium to large enterprise customers because the benefits are relevant to the size of their business as well.
Megha McSwain: It can be so hard, right, to leave those things in the past because they’re familiar and comfortable even though they drive us crazy. But once you leave them behind, there’s just like a whole new world, an easier and easier world.
Murray Decker: We make it a smooth transition, so we’re like, You can keep doing your excel spreadsheets for the crossover of 2 or 3 months while you’re using the system just to double check because you have to really gain trust, and that it’s going to be so. But that’s something that we really involved in that onboarding process we do all training. There’s all help centers within the system implementation processes. So that’s where we can sort of say, okay, now you can let go of that spreadsheet if you’d like if you want to keep it going in the back end because you’re going to do it anyway, so you want to keep it going, then no problems. But that’s where it’s been a big help. And think from a distribution perspective, like our network of travel agencies and online travel agencies helping them just with one connection that they can access, not only just your big sellers but all the unique operators that might be DMCs and tour operators that we are onboarding and are unique to Tour Amigo. We can supply them as a unique differentiation. And so these travel agencies can connect in and have a B2B agent portal and have access to all of these different products just through one link. The alternative is they have to individually connect into them one by one, so it saves them a huge amount of time on that respect.
Megha McSwain: Well, that sounds very cool. I mean, in such a short time, it really sounds like you guys have created something that’s going to be very time-saving for a lot of people. A huge benefit, clearly Tour Amigo is undoubtedly reshaping the B2B travel technology space and making a positive impact. So we appreciate you sharing your journey and the journey of this company with us, and we’d love to catch up again in the future and kind of see where it’s at and get an update from you.
Murray Decker: Absolutely. Yeah. And we have many announcements sort of coming up, so stay tuned with it. And if anyone wants to reach out to us, we’re we definitely take a more consultative approach. We’re not going to give you a sales pitch. It’s like if we believe that our system is not suited to the people that we’re talking to, we’ll be very upfront and honest. But we have enough connections where whether it’s our competitors in market or a different industry, we’ll recommend them on if we think it’s a better fit.
Megha McSwain: And how can people get in touch with you and follow along to what Tour Amigo is up to? Share your website and contact info.
Murray Decker: Yeah, very active on LinkedIn. Our website has all the contact information firstname.lastname@example.org. You can contact us directly there, but easily go through the website, follow us on LinkedIn because we make all the announcements, the LinkedIn page there and you can contact us through LinkedIn if you really need to, any way that they want to contact us, they can these numbers on the web page as well. And happy to help if we can.
Megha McSwain: Great. Thank you so much, Murray. It was wonderful getting all of this insight from you and we look forward to speaking with you again here on TravelPreneur.
Murray Decker: Fabulous. Thank you very much for having me.
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